Rebel News' Commander Ezra Levant landed in Lethbridge, Alberta, Thursday morning to cover the latest criminal prosecution of Artur Pawlowski, the Christian pastor who refused to close his church during the province's "draconian" COVID lockdowns.
"There really is a vendetta against Pastor Artur ... They're trying to break him — the process is the punishment," tweeted Levant.
Two Crown prosecutors, including Steven Johnston, were defending the province of Alberta and told the judge that the trial "[would] proceed based on an agreed statement of facts (ASF) — that is, the crown and Artur's lawyers have agreed to what happened, and the evidence is pretty clear."
The primary evidence that the prosecution presented to the court is a video of a speech by Pastor Pawlowski.
"It's a 19-minute video of a speech — part sermon, part political manifesto, part pep talk — that Artur gave a year ago to support the trucker convoy here in southern Alberta," tweeted Levant. "Seriously. That's what Artur is being charged criminally for — giving a speech."
"I am not kidding."
Levant commented that that's why so many people support a blanket amnesty to anyone still facing charges for a nonviolent offence under the COVID lockdowns.
A Leger poll commissioned by Rebel News uncovered 73% of United Conservative Party supporters want pandemic prosecutions against pastors and small businesses dropped by the Alberta government.
Over one-third of Albertans supported Premier Danielle Smith's proposal to end COVID prosecutions for violating the lockdowns and mandates. She even maintained support from 32% of the general public for extending that same amnesty to everyone charged or fined during lockdowns and mandates.
Sixty-seven percent of UCP members overwhelmingly support the initiative.
But Smith informed the press mid-January that her government would not give amnesty to violators of COVID mandates. She said that Canada "works differently" than other jurisdictions.
Just before Christmas, she told Rebel News she met with Crown prosecutors to consider if these cases still served the public's best interests.
On Pastor Pawlowski’s trial, "We are in a trial in Alberta (motto: Strong and Free) about whether that speech is a criminal act," tweeted Levant.
"Seriously — you've got two prosecutors, and a whole court gathered to determine whether or not Artur's speech constituted a crime? In Canada?"
According to the ASF, Pastor Pawlowski faces charges for three offences, including violating the "Critical Infrastructure Defence Act," a never-before-used law against eco-terrorism designed to stop Greenpeace from vandalizing pipelines.
Johnston, who is also prosecuting nonviolent truckers who participated in the Coutts blockade a year ago, has called for ten-year prison terms for them.
"He is obsessed with "getting" the truckers and their supporters. Why does the Alberta government allow this vendetta?" tweeted Levant.
"Johnston [describes to Judge Gordon Krinke] how Pastor Artur drove to the saloon in Coutts, Alberta, to give a speech, [and] admits Artur had nothing to do with organizing the blockade itself."
"He went there, gave a speech, and went home. He was there for a few hours and didn't return."
"Artur uses dramatic language — the language of battle, of fighting. But he is crystal clear several times in this video: he means it metaphorically. He clarifies, in case anyone misunderstands [that] he means a peaceful struggle," tweeted Levant.
As of 10:13 am MST, Levant confirmed that the court would play the video of Pastor Pawlowski's speech, where he talks about Lech Walesa and the Polish Solidarity movement, as he was born in Poland.
"No one disputes that Pastor Artur went to the Coutts blockade to give a speech. The only thing that's at issue is whether or not that constitutes a crime," tweeted Levant.
As of 10:33 am MST, Johnston said that the video, and the Agreed Statement of Facts, are "the totality of the case of the crown," whereas the defence argues there is no case.
Pastor Pawlowski has a "dream team" of civil liberties lawyers, including Sarah Miller, Chad Haggerty and Emily Amirkhani and an articling student in support.
"Artur became the first prisoner of conscience for whom Rebel News crowdfunded a legal defence," tweeted Levant. "Since then, we have helped 2,100 people who faced tickets and criminal charges for resisting the lockdowns and other pernicious orders."
Following a court review of the speech, the judge says he received notice of a constitutional challenge from Pastor Pawlowski's lawyers about the eco-terrorism law.
"He's asking why the crown didn't provide an answer to that. Prosecutor Johnston says if he gets a conviction on mischief, he'll abandon the eco-terrorism law," tweeted Levant.
"In other words, the prosecutor isn't even trying to justify the constitutionality of the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act."
"The Crown prosecutor, who has had a full year, only gave a massive binder of cases to Artur's lawyers last night. I think the judge got it at the same time," tweeted Levant.
"This case is scheduled for a two-day trial. But it's been just over an hour, and it looks like we're pretty much done, at least in terms of evidence. No witnesses," tweeted Levant.
The judge will adjourn until 1:00 pm MST to review the written materials presented in his court.